On The Shore On The shore — 29 June 2013
Luxury condo prices going through the roof

By Robyn A. Friedman

You might have heard that South Florida’s real estate market is on the rebound. Sales are up in many neighborhoods, as are prices. What you might not have heard is just how well one particular sector of the market is doing — ultra-luxury condominiums. That market is absolutely booming.

After a number of years perhaps best described as sluggish, the ultra-luxury condominium market in South Florida — the epicenter of the condo bust — has roared back. No one knows this better than Mark Zilbert, president and CEO of Zilbert Realty Group in Miami Beach. After all, Zilbert’s firm was responsible for brokering the record-setting sale of a penthouse unit at The Setai in Miami Beach — for a whopping $27 million, the most expensive condominium resale in the southeastern United States to date, Zilbert says.

But that’s just the beginning, since higher sales are about to hit the record books as newly constructed condominiums, which have been sold by developers but not fully constructed yet, begin to close.

“The past 12 months has really been an amazing time here,” Zilbert says. “The overall averages in the market are at an all-time high — even higher than the condo boom.”

The ultra-luxury condominium market — sales of $10 million and more — is being driven by a number of factors. Buyers from all over the world are flocking to South Florida and particularly Miami — some seeking sun, excitement or an easy business gateway to Latin America, while others are seeking a safe haven for their money. These are “real” buyers — end-users who plan to use the condos for themselves and their families — not speculators. And as demand has risen, so have prices.

“There’s a great demand for exceptional properties, but we’re really at a point where there’s not a lot of the very best inventory available,” Zilbert says. “We’re talking about people of extreme wealth, and when they find something they want, they’ll pay whatever it takes. They’ve got the money.”

Today, South Florida is a Mecca for buyers from Latin America, Europe, Russia and, increasingly, from the United States — particularly second-home buyers from New York who are propelling these mansion-in-the-sky prices to new heights.

And, compared to prices in other major cities, luxury units in South Florida are a virtual bargain.

“In general, Miami has a lower price with respect to the rest of the world,” says Edgardo Defortuna, president of Fortune International and the developer of Jade Signature, a 192-unit condominium in Sunny Isles Beach at which prices range from $1.7 million to $25 million. “While prices have gone up compared to what they were a year or two ago, they are still significantly less than what you can buy something for in New York, Rio or São Paulo.”

Indeed.  An opulent penthouse at the Pierre Hotel in New York City just hit the market for a cool $125 million. The 16-room unit has five bedrooms, six full baths, three partial baths and encompasses the entire 41st, 42nd and 43rd floors, offering 360-degree views of Manhattan.

So what does the future hold for South Florida’s ultra-luxury condo market? Will development of these super-towers creep north into Broward and Palm Beach Counties?

At least one industry expert thinks so. “Potentially Broward has a future because the land is there,” says Zilbert, who pointed to Pompano Beach and Hollywood as possible locations. “It will become much more commonplace to be in these outlying areas, and what is now an ‘off’ market could very much become an ‘on’ market.”

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